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Attitude of Jewish Students Toward Judaism Analyzed at Hillel Parley

November 1, 1961
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The 250,000 American Jewish college students are caught in a “frustrating conflict” between an increasing affirmation of their religious identity and a “naive and immature” understanding of the essentials of Judaism. This was the consensus of B’nai B’rith Hillel directors at 75 major universities in a summary reported today by Joseph L. Paradise, vice-chairman of the Hillel National Commission, at the commission’s annual meeting.

“A generation ago it was not uncommon for the Jewish student to answer ‘none’ when asked his religion on an enrollment card. Nowadays, this is a rarity,” Mr. Paradise declared. But the predicament of the present-day student grows out of the “pediatric quality” of his religious education that has been arrested at the elementary school level, Mr. Paradise added. “The result is an intellectual clash between the students mature level of scholarship to meet the academic standards of college and his childish notions about Judaism,” he said.

The need for a Jewish education system that is “not vacuum packed for children, but is adult motivated and has a relevancy to modern Jewish life,” was stressed by Label A. Katz, president of B’nai B’rith. “The study of Judaism,” Mr. Katz declared, “must be approached with the same intellectual and academic integrity as we would the study of social and physical sciences.”

Rabbi Benjamin M. Kahn, Hillel national director, deplored the growing “competition and divisiveness” which, he said, exists in some areas of Jewish communal and religious life. “We are concerned that these conditions do not intrude on the college campus,” he declared. He reaffirmed the Hillel Foundation’s role as that of a chaplaincy which does not endorse ideologically or programmatically any partisan position in Jewish life, but fully respects the differing religious and cultural ideologies and commitments within Judaism.

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